Friday, November 24, 2000
PM owes Westerners apology - Day

By Jennifer Ditchburn / The Canadian Press

Streetsville, Ont. - Prime Minister Jean Chretien owes Western Canadians an apology for saying he prefers to work with eastern politicians, Stockwell Day said Thursday.

The Canadian Alliance leader lashed out against Chretien for the second day in a row, and is expected to heighten his attacks as his campaign moves from Ontario to the West with  just a few days left until the Nov. 27 vote.

Wednesday night, Chretien joked to a gathering in Nova Scotia that he preferred to do politics with people from the East rather than with Day and Clark, who are from Alberta.

Day called it an unacceptable comment, even if made in jest.

"I don't hold grudges against people by any means, but I think he needs to apologize to the entire nation," Day said in this suburb near Toronto.

"Here we have a person who for a few more days is going to be our prime minister and he  was actually making a comment that he preferred certain people in this country over others."

Chretien, asked if he thinks he should apologize, stumbled a bit, but defended his comment as a joke.

"No, I said, I, my kind of Westerners, I have a lot of friends there," he said. "Anne McLellan and David Kilgour and my candidates and my 400 cousins from Alberta. Joe Clark and Mr. Day have not been particularly nice against me in the last (while,) and they are both from Alberta.

 "If it's misinterpreted then I'm sorry, but you know, I was explaining to them how comfortable I was to be in New Brunswick where I was elected once."

The verbal battle between Day and Chretien has descended in recent days into a duel over who should say they're sorry.

Chretien demanded Day apologize for suggesting he acted inappropriately, perhaps criminally, when he lobbied a bank president to give a constituent a loan.

Day's focus on Chretien's remarks is a bit of payback after the Liberals painted the Alliance as a party that harbours or attracts bigots.

Winnipeg Alliance candidate Betty Granger was forced to pull out of the race after she suggested Canada's West Coast is facing an "Asian invasion."

Then aboriginal groups demanded Day remove a candidate in Saskatchewan, Brian Fitzpatrick, who told natives they couldn't "scalp" him because he didn't have enough hair.

Day refused to take action against Fitzpatrick, who had apologized, and insisted Canadians could forgive a joke delivered in bad taste.

He also suggested the media unfairly concentrates on Alliance missteps and overlooks those by the Liberals.

Day said Thursday he couldn't forgive Chretien because the prime minister hadn't asked for it.

"The difference between Jean Chretien and Mr. Fitzpatrick is that Mr. Fitzpatrick apologized," Day said.

Chretien's joke came at an opportune time for Day, who is facing the prospect of being shut out in Ontario, the most crucial province.

 At a rally Wednesday night and again Thursday morning, Day showcased his visible minority candidates and called the Alliance a unifying force.

While some polls suggest the Alliance has climbed marginally across the country, they also point to a rise for the Progressive Conservatives, raising the prospect of more vote splitting.

Day shrugged off a survey that suggested the Alliance could be shut out in 14 Toronto-area ridings.

 "There's 103 constituencies in the province," Day said. "We will see what happens on Monday. Remember, it's the trend line that's important."

Day has predicted the party could win up to 40 seats in Ontario, mostly in rural areas that split the vote with the Conservatives in the 1997 election.